A unique set of challenges regarding product development are encountered when working in a low to medium volume manufacturing space. This manufacturing space is highly variable and caters to each customer’s specific wants and needs.
VARIATION IN REQUESTS
Production numbers can fluctuate widely with this manufacturing model. Some of the small batch estimated annual unit (EAU) orders come in at around 25 units a year in contrast to larger production order runs from our OEM partners have us manufacture an abundance producing thousands of their units a year.
This massive differential makes it essential for MPE to maintain flexibility in all areas: manufacturing processes, facilities, operators and resources. Additionally, it is critical for MPE to leverage and manage our supply chain to reliably source the raw materials and purchased components necessary for our metal fabrications and custom solutions.
The variation in annual unit output for our customers has a huge impact on subsequent manufacturing choices that follow. Usually, the lower the individual unit budget and production quantity, the less freedom you have when choosing materials. Exotic and premium materials come with a higher price tag and, often times, more extensive tooling challenges. Smaller lot orders typically have no tooling budget. This is when we get to work our sheet metal magic and do what we do best. We can often find a way to accomplish the same objective originally intended to be met with a casting or machined component via formed sheet metal. Whenever a compromise is made to the ideal material and manufacturing methods there will be certain drawbacks which often come in the form of a slight compromise in aesthetics. These are often in the form of part lines and limited complex surfacing on elements.
When we are designing a multifaceted assembly of components for a customer there are oftentimes many mechanical challenges. Mechanisms are implemented to solve the smaller mechanical challenges by improving process mobility, adjustment, and accommodation of accessories. These adjunct non-custom components that are produced by another manufacturer are referred to as “off the shelf components.” These parts provide convenient solutions to certain challenges within an entire design. The product testing and verification have already been done if the source is a reputable supplier. MPE can cut potential NRE costs that would have subsequently impacted the customer. An example of an off the shelf component would be a VESA monitor pole mounting bracket. These mounts have a standardized 4-hole pattern made to meet up with the standardized pattern on the back of computer monitors so they can work universally.
Product lifespan and durability are highly variable in MPE’s manufacturing environment. Most of our products are engineered to have the longest possible life cycle and built to last. One compelling aspect of the product lifespan within our typical project scope is that planned obsolescence never enters the conversation. Planned obsolescence is commonly observed in tech industries and it is when a product is engineered to “expire” once a predetermined life cycle has been achieved. This can easily be accomplished in tech industries where routine software updates are required. This “forced expiration” can be achieved by making new software updates increasingly less compatible with the original hardware.
Sometimes the lengthy lifecycle provides unique design challenges because designers and engineers must anticipate what the future of the respective industry holds so that their product can still be relevant player decades later. They must also do their best to make their design accommodating to future innovations when possible. One way in which this can be accomplished is with rather universal and modular external mounting options for accessories and cooperating equipment.
In order for physical modifications and hardware to be replaced and modified when necessary accessibility accommodations must be made first in the design phase. It is important that a maintenance professional will be able to access the inner workings of the device to repair or replace broken and worn parts in the event of component failure. Removable panels and access ports can be added to otherwise concealed components to allow entry.
Although it may seem counterproductive and rather ironic, we do not always manufacture a product to motivate its particular sales. One place we can observe this is with annex products. An annex product is used to motivate the sales of a complementary product. An example of this within the medical industry is with disposable goods. Often times storage devices are designed and distributed alongside a quota of disposables to facilitate their continued consumption.
In order for a product to meet ISO regulatory requirements, different circumstances must be met for different industries. Let’s use the medical industry as an example because many of the products we make adhere to these regulations.
Document control and design control are the main priorities of the ISO regulations faced by medical manufacturers. Many of these pertain to the filing and storage of information and aspects pertaining to how the business is run and the information is cataloged. Some others pertain to tilt and tip resistance, ability to pass over uneven flooring and grounding of electrical components.
CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITIES
There is no shortage of considerations to be made when manufacturing products inside of a highly variable and customer tailored production volume space. The nature of MPE’s prescribed solutions being customer specific means that there is no cookie cutter solution to solving challenges. This is where the teams’ tribal knowledge alongside our process and tool specific expertise offer unrivaled added value to your product development experience.
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